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How a Virtual Mailbox Helped Basecamp Become Fully Remote

Sarah Cantu

November 4, 2020

Founded in 1999 as 37signals, Basecamp offers a project management solution that helps remote teams of all shapes and sizes get organized and keep their work on track. Basecamp's team is also responsible for inventing the very popular programming framework Ruby on Rails and email platform HEY. With 50+ employees spanning 32 cities, Basecamp is now a fully remote company, but that wasn't always the case. 

Challenges

Basecamp maintained a small office presence in the Chicago area since 2010, but the office was nonessential with such a distributed team. Navid Afshar, the Senior Administrative Assistant, shared, "Basecamp had been a huge promoter of remote work for two decades basically, so having an office was a nice to have. It got to the point where it was just not worth the cost. Then the pandemic hit and it sort of pushed us [to become completely remote]."

While the company was already well on its way to becoming fully remote, there was one challenge left to solve: postal mail. Managing postal mail was one of Navid's responsibilities, and in his words, Basecamp was "trying to find a way to make [his] job 100% remote like everybody else's." While Navid could do almost all of his work remotely, postal mail was the last piece of the puzzle. Navid said, "[Mail] was the only thing tying me to Chicago." 

To help solve their postal mail problem, Basecamp explored a few options. Initially, they experimented with a PO Box and a UPS Mailbox. However, neither of these options quite met their needs. In terms of the PO Box option, Navid shared, "everything would go to the PO Box, and I would have to check it weekly. That was fine, but not ideal." 

In comparison, the UPS Mailbox seemed like a better option. Navid said, "I set it up so that all of the mail would be forwarded to my home. But they don't sort through the mail. They don't throw away what we don't need. They don't scan anything. I would end up getting a huge package every week of mostly [unwanted mail]. I would also end up having to scan stuff at home or at a coworking space and into our Basecamp [account]."

While a PO Box or UPS Mailbox would allow Basecamp to shut down its office, the fundamental problem was still the same: postal mail was tied to a physical location. Tying postal mail to one location could present challenges further down the line if Navid moved or went on an extended vacation. There had to be a better solution.

Solution

Fortunately, Basecamp was able to find a better option: Earth Class Mail. After learning about our products on Twitter, Navid did his homework. One of Navid’s biggest priorities was finding a solution that would handle the company’s private and confidential documents appropriately. 

Navid shared, "We'll receive tax statements [in the mail], employee W2s, stuff that has our owner's tax ID on it. All of the important [documents come] through the mail. One of the biggest reservations [we had] before speaking to anybody at Earth Class Mail was around the privacy and security of our documents." 

Fortunately, we were able to meet Basecamp's needs in terms of privacy and features. The team signed up for our Business MailRoom offering in July 2020. So far, Basecamp uses features like mail scanning, mail forwarding, and check deposit. 

Basecamp is also getting paid faster with Check Deposit, and it's quickly become one of their favorite features. "The check deposit feature has been easy and wonderful. I just click 'deposit' [and the money is there in a couple of days]. It's been smooth, very happy with that feature." 

Other services Basecamp is using are mail sorting and forwarding. In particular, mail sorting has helped reduce postal mail clutter. Navid shared that with mail sorting, "all of the [unwanted mail] doesn't even reach my eyeballs. That's huge."

Results

Accessing their postal mail online has allowed Basecamp to become fully remote, save time, and become even more productive. 

Navid shared that the time he spends on postal mail has at least been cut in half. Before Earth Class Mail, Navid was spending about 30 minutes to an hour dealing with postal mail every week, and that number has since dropped down to 15 minutes every week. 

Before signing up, dealing with postal mail was a chore. Navid shared that every week looked like, "Picking up the mail, opening the mail, scanning the mail, destroying the mail, and sorting through it.” Now dealing with mail is much faster. Navid shares it's just a matter of "looking at it, downloading it, and saving it to our internal archives." 

Moreover, the amount of unwanted mail he has to deal with has reduced drastically. Before Earth Class Mail, the company was regularly receiving six copies of a single catalog.

In just a few short months, Basecamp has been able to access postal mail online, deposit checks remotely, and forward important documents. Most importantly, Basecamp has reached its original goal and has now become a 100% remote company. 

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